As humans we tend to focus on negative things more than positive. After projects that don’t go well we have post-mortems to discover all the things that went poorly and try to fix them for next time. After submitting a sales proposal and not winning the business, we have a review to look at why we didn’t win.

As business owners we need to step beyond this tendency and look more at what is working.

This mean looking at projects that went well and looking at the things that you did right; so you can do more of it and have more successful projects. For sales this means looking at the proposals where you won the business and learning from those. Do more of what works. Find the bright spots.

In my last post, I talked about change. One of the chapters was on finding the bright spots. In the context of change, this means find someone or something that is working (or supporting the change) instead of those things that are in your way. Do more of it and you can start moving in the right direction.

Part of running an agile business should include conducting business retrospectives. Retro – inspection. Not retro – judgments. What went well, what went poorly and what was ok but could use some tweaking?

What Went Well? – Do more of it. You are good at this and playing to your strengths can lead to a concept called leverage where your results are larger than the investment.

What went poorly? – The obvious solution is to become better at these things. But focusing too much on your weaknesses will often make you average at best and divert energy from what you are good at. Agile principles would have you look at the situation more creatively. Do you really need to do these things in the first place? Are there other ways of achieving the desired outcome? What is the simplest thing that will work? What are the impediments and how can they be removed? Can you allocate resources better so that the people who are better at those tasks can perform them? Training?

What was ok, but could be improved? – We tend to ignore these things in favour of the things that went poorly. But in reality these are things that you already have some skill in. Improvements here might jump the outcome to “what went well?”; thereby leading to leaps in productivity.

End the retrospective in a positive fashion. The goal is not to leave a trail of blame and excuses.

The goal is to make the future better and leverage what you already have. Concrete action items and repeatable lessons. Ensure your team comes away stronger for the next challenge and pumped to take it on.

This is why business retrospectives should be finding the bright spots.